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November 2007

Larry Coryell, Al Di Meola & Biréli Lagrène
Super Guitar Trio Live at Montreux 1989

Fairly or not, any disc with the title “Super Guitar Trio” seems like a sequel to the popular 1980 acoustic live album Friday Night in San Francisco, by Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Paco DeLucia. Larry Coryell was part of that trio in the late 1970s before bowing out and being replaced by Di Meola for the recording. For this 1989 concert at the Montreux Casino, Di Meola is joined by Coryell and French guitarist Biréli Lagrène.

The absence of speed-demon McLaughlin makes this lineup the least note-happy, although the Montreux crowd eats up every fast run in Coryell’s opening “PSP No. 11.” The elder statesman of the trio, Coryell was then 46, and his taste and restraint often keep the pieces from overkill. He overcomes annoying percussive guitar tapping by Di Meola (who was in his mid-30s) during Astor Piazzolla’s “Tango Suite (For Two Guitars),” played sans Lagrène.

Di Meola’s best moments come during his solo “Orient Blue Suite/Traces of a Tear.” But he comes across as predictable compared to the similarly technical Lagrene, then in his early 20s and seen as the Gypsy successor to Django Reinhardt. The young guitarist displays tastefully fleet fingers on the duet “Musette De Paris Avec La Rue Dupierre #5,” with accompaniment by Coryell on 12-string. Lagrène’s unaccompanied “Waltz,” in which he de-tunes for effect, is stunning.

Multiple close-up camera angles capture much of the intricate playing, even if parts by each guitarist occasionally get buried in the audio. The trio closes with the Chick Corea pieces “No Mystery” and “Spain,” both from the Return to Forever era. Perhaps it was Di Meola calling for Corea to reunite them in his former group (which, another 18 years later, still hasn’t happened).

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